World War II veteran remembers The Battle of Okinawa, 75 years later

Julia LeDoux
March 24, 2020 - 9:09 am
Battle of Okinawa

Departmentt of Defense

James Riffe was a 23-year-old first lieutenant in the Army's 27th Infantry Division when he was tapped to led a platoon during the Battle of Okinawa 75 years ago.

"They were 18-and 19-years-old," he said. "Okinawa is a part of my life for 75 years."

The battle began on April 1, 1945, and lasted for 82 days.

"They would attack around 2 or 3 in the morning," Riffe said of the Japanese.  "For those six weeks, we were engaged in fighting just about every day."

Riffe said one day during the battle, a Japanese attack left every member of the 10 man squad he was leading either dead or wounded. Riffe suffered shrapnel wounds throughout his back as a result of the attack.

"I remember most closely the young men I served with who were killed or wounded," he said. "I think of them every day."

Riffe received the Purple Heart  for his service on Okinawa and went on to spend the next 30 years in the Army, retiring as a colonel. Today, he lives with his wife in Gainesville, Virginia.

James Riffe
Courtesy photo

The Battle of Okinawa was the last major battle of World War II. When it was over, 14,000 American service members, almost 110,000 Japanese soldiers and at least 140,000 Okinawan civilians were dead.

"It may have been 75 years ago, but it hasn't been 75 years for me," Riffe said. "It's a life-changing experience."

Church to read the names of 241.000 lives lost during the Battle of Okinawa 

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